Dozens of People Arrested as Indigenous People Lead Mass Protests in Ecuador

Dozens of People Arrested as Indigenous People Lead Mass Protests in Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador – By dawn on October 26, indigenous communities in Ecuador had already started the most recent ‘paro nacional’, or national closure in English, stopping the main transit arteries in the countryside to mark the start of a day of protest against the rise in fuel prices.
Protesters wanted to enter the heavily fortified presidential palace peacefully, but metal fences and riot police blocked the streets leading to the building.

Indigenous collectives and other social groups have called on conservative President Guillermo Lasso to reverse the spike in fuel costs announced last week.

“A few days ago, the president called me a destabilizer,” Leonidas Iza, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, or CONAIE, told reporters.

“Ecuadorians don’t have time for this: we are all concerned about the economic problems.

At a press briefing after the protests ended in Quito, Interior Minister Alexandra Vela said the majority of nationwide protests were peaceful on Tuesday, but identified a group that was reportedly aggressive against riot police, which prompted officers to fire tear gas in Santo Domingo Square to disperse. crowds.

Vela said 37 people were detained by police throughout the day.

CONAIE also announced seven resolutions following the day of protests, including preparations for a second day of protests and reiterated its demand that fuel prices be reduced to levels they were in June.

Under pressure from CONAIE and indigenous lawmakers, Lasso announced last week that he was freezing monthly increases in fuel prices, but set new prices slightly higher than those due to go into effect in October with a fixed price. gasoline at $ 2.55 per gallon ($ 0.67 per liter) and diesel $ 1.90 per gallon ($ 0.50 per liter).

Security forces stand guard as indigenous people block the Pan-American highway in Panzaleo, Cotopaxi province, Ecuador on October 26, 2021 [Rodrigo Buendia/ AFP]

“We have listened to you, the people, as well as the political and social sectors to reach an agreement that brings us stability, in which the economy grows and creates jobs,” Lasso said in a message to the country on Friday.

CONAIE rejected the president’s announcement and said the protests would go ahead as planned.

Now more than five months at work, Lasso faces a migratory crisis of Ecuadorians leaving for the US-Mexico border and a bloody gang war in the prison system.

Days before the start of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, environmentalists also lambasted the president for pledging to double Ecuador’s oil production during his tenure, creating the prospect of a confrontation between indigenous communities isolated Amazon and state security forces.

An indigenous woman watches the scene of a roadblock in the Andean province of central Ecuador, Cotopaxi, October 26, 2021 [Juan Diego Montenegro/Al Jazeera]

Lasso did not appear before the legislative committee’s investigation into the Pandora Papers last week and denied wrongdoing after being named in last month’s report. The national prosecution has also launched an investigation into Lasso’s offshore assets.

With the intention of tackling crime and drug-related violence, Lasso declared a 60-day state of emergency last Monday. The decree allows for the rapid deployment of police and armed forces to carry out routine checks in hot spots.

But organizations condemned the move as an attempt to crack down on the protests and shutdown scheduled for Tuesday.

An apparent standoff between protesters and police in Panzaleo, Cotopaxi province, Ecuador on October 26, 2021, during a protest against the government’s economic policies [Rodrigo Buendia/ AFP]

Speaking to reporters in Quito on October 19, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken supported Lasso’s declaration of security but said “these measures must be taken in accordance with the Constitution.”

« [The measures] must be very focused on what they are looking to achieve and of limited duration and… monitor and proceed in a manner that respects democratic principles, ”said Blinken during a three-day visit to Ecuador and its northern neighbor , Colombia.

Tensions between Lasso and CONAIE escalated for months and on October 4 a meeting at the presidential palace between the two sides resulted in a deadlock without a viable solution to lower fuel prices and oil exploration in the forest. Ecuadorian tropical.

In October 2019, there was a 10-day nationwide shutdown after then-president Lenin Moreno implemented an austerity plan that would have cut decades-old fuel subsidies.

Forced to back down by overwhelming social discontent, Moreno signed an executive decree authorizing gradual monthly increases in the price of fuel from May 2020.

Lasso inherited the problem of rising fuel prices, which continued to shape Ecuador’s political, economic and social landscape.


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